Food and some stories....

Author: Suranjana (page 1 of 4)

Tam Kung Festival in Hong Kong

When you think Hong Kong the first thing that comes to mind is tall sky touching skyscrapers, surrounded by miles of sea. A modern city made of glass and steel; and that was the impression I had when I first visited the city back in 2012 for a short work trip. Now that I am staying in Hong Kong for a longer duration it has given me the opportunity to explore the city in a much more leisurely fashion and understand the nuances and the pace of the city much better. So, when I read about the celebration parade for the birthday of Tam Kung, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to learn a little more about the Chinese traditional celebrations. This was a chance to learn about the ancient roots of the modern world city. I present to you all the Tam Kung festival in Hong Kong.

The birthday of Tam Kung is one of the four lunar classical traditional festivals in the fourth lunar month that celebrate Hong Kong’s living culture. It’s usually celebrated in the month of April and May; this year it was celebrated on the 3rd of May. The other notable traditional festivals celebrated in Hong Kong during this time are the Tin Hau festival, Lord Buddha’s birthday and the Cheung Chau Bun festival.

Tam Kung is one of the few Chinese deities only known to Hong Kong and Macau, he is considered the patron saint of fishermen. He was a native of the Guangdong province during the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368); according to popular legend, he was a young boy when he already had the powers to contain the winds and the storms making him popular among the fishermen.

Every year there is a big street festival to celebrate his birthday, fishermen and worshippers from all over Hong Kong gather in Shau Kei Wan where lion and dragon dance teams parade through the main street. Shau Kei Wan has been used by fishermen since the 18th century to moor their boats and the temple dates to the 1900’s and is the oldest temple dedicated to the deity of Tam Kung in Hong Kong.

Shau Kei Wan

Shau Kei Wan

Shau Kei Wan meaning “rice basket bay” is a settlement dating back centuries before the British occupied the island in 1841. And perhaps that is why it is so amazing to see the cultural traditions and festivals of the local Chinese people still practiced with so much gusto and fanfare. It was in 2006 that the Hong Kong tourism board started promoting this festival with much fanfare to revive the old Chinese traditional practices.

We left Wan Chai around 9.30 and reached Shau Kei Wan in about 20 minutes. The festivities had already begun, and there were people lined on both sides of the street to watch the parade. Young and old were jostling for space, with the young ones often on the shoulders of their parents.

Tam Kung festival in Hong Kong

Dragon Dance

Tam Kung festival in Hong Kong

Close encounters of the dragon kind

Tam kung festival in Hong Kong

From what I could gather local groups or clubs put up colourful dragon and lion dances or dress up as Chinese opera characters or gods along with martial arts presentations. There were quite a few old lady groups who also walked by in their colourful dresses, dancing their way through the streets. And notable was a young toddler dressed up as a chinese opera character with his mother pushing his stroller behind, just in case he got tired. Lot of the performers underneath the dragons were little kids.

Dragon kids!

Dragon kids!

Tam Kung Festival in Hong Kong

Pretty ladies!

Parade Scenes-1

Parade Scenes-1

Parade scenes 2

Parade scenes 2

I am originally from Kolkata where there is still a small Chinese immigrant community settled and a place we call China town. Growing up I have seen bits of dragon and lion dances during the Chinese New Year celebrations, but nothing so elaborate and extensive. The participation of people of all ages really brings out the importance of family and togetherness in the Chinese community. The few hours that I spent taking pictures and watching the parade was truly one of my most memorable experiences in Hong Kong.

Colorful Dragons at the Tam Kung festival

Colorful Dragons

As a tourist, I have travelled many countries and visited many monuments and scenic places. But the chance to live a culture, experience it, is truly immersing and delightful. I understood more of Chinese culture in those couple of hours than the entire month I have already spent in Hong Kong. I hope my readers through my pictures get a glimpse of what I could experience. Kudos to the Hong Kong Tourism board for  promoting  this festival, and hope to catch many more in the future.

Hong Kong food adventures- Dan Tai Fung, Causeway Bay

Who can resist good food, well I certainly can’t. And Hong Kong is a foodie paradise, be it street food, Michelin star restaurants or five star hotels. Food is everywhere and it tempts and entices and you don’t mind spending your last dollar for the enticing array of food available.  I have been eating my way through Hong Kong and  have not been disappointed in any single place, be it a hole in the wall or a fancy Michelin starred restaurant. As I navigate this city I will be sharing with you all a few of my favourite places, in no order and if you happen to be in the neighbourhood, do let me know how the experience was for you. So here goes the first of my Hong Kong food adventures.

My first day in Hong Kong and I happened to be near Dan Tai Fung a Taiwanese restaurant (the Yee Wo Branch) specialising in xiaolongbao (steamed dumplings). The restaurant chain is legendary and in 1993 was voted one of the top ten restaurants in the world by the New York times. In 2009, its first Hong Kong Branch at Tsim Sha Tsui was awarded one Michelin star and in 2010 the Yee Wo branch was also accorded the same honour.

So even though we were not very hungry, it was too good an opportunity to pass up, and we decided to check out the place. Although the Easter holidays were going on and the place was packed with weekend crowd; their electronic queuing system and viewing the menu and filling the order form before you are shown to your table helps in making the process smoother.  As a result of which the service was  fast and efficient; the waiting period was hardly a pinch.

Since we were not hungry we ordered three dishes, the prawn xiaolongbao, the sautéed water spinach with garlic and the vermicelli soup with fried bean curd and pork rolls.

Vermicelli soup with fried beancurd and pork rolls

Vermicelli soup with fried beancurd and pork rolls

Sauteed water spinach with garlic

Sauteed water spinach with garlic

Pork Xiaolongbao

Pork Xiaolongbao

I found the food to be very good with generous portion size and without pinching the pocket too much. A meal for two will cost you HKD 100$-200$ without drinks.A definite visit if you are in the neighbourhood.


Current pit stop-Hong Kong

A long hiatus from the blog, and I had almost given up on it. And then suddenly out of the blue the number of readers on the blog suddenly started jumping and that was just the kind of motivation I needed. So, the story of my life right now is that the husband is temporarily stationed in Hong Kong for a work project; and I have joined him. It’s been only five days that I am here in Hong Kong, and obviously, there is lots to do and lots to discover.

We are staying here in an executive apartment and in terms of cooking I have very limited means which means I have no blender, no oven and literally a one burner induction stove. So, have stuck to just cooking the odd breakfast and pan fried food. Also, I must add I have just one pan and one pot that have been provided to us by the apartment. Didn’t make sense for us to set up an entire kitchen for a month or two. Which is a pity cause the variety of produce is sensational and  my hands itch every time I visit the local markets. Will, keep you all updated on my limited culinary adventures in my mini kitchen.

But as always there is a silver lining always, Hong Kong happens to be the city blessed with 58 Michelin star restaurants and I promise to share reviews of quite a few with you all. I am not sure I am really qualified to do reviews of restaurants, so let me put it this way, it will be more like sharing of my culinary experiences. So, stay tuned and I hope you enjoy the coming ride.

Till then ciao from Hong Kong.

Asian noodle salad

It’s the New Year, and I think I have to finally break the self imposed exile from the blog and before I forget wish you all a very Happy New Year!!!  My last blog post was about salads and I had promised all of you three salad recipes.  Today I am going to share a very interesting Asian noodle salad recipe and after having it you will never find salads boring ever.The best part about this salad is that it’s hot, spicy, very refreshing for the palate and is a complete meal in itself. Since trying out this recipe I have already made it twice in the space of two weeks, that’s how awesome it is. And I make it in huge quantities, so there are lots of leftovers; you can eat it straight out of the fridge.

My inspiration for this salad is Thai food and the secret to this is the dressing. Once you get the dressing right, you mix and match with any vegetable combination that you might be fond of. Also I insist on the rice noodles, you can try with other noodles but it’s just not the same. I have used shrimp, but you can substitute it with any other protein like leftover chicken or fried tofu. Alternatively skip it altogether for a lighter version.

Asian Noodle Salad



¼ cup lime juice

¼ cup rice vinegar

1 tsp grated ginger

Couple of large garlic cloves

4-5 Thai red chillies (you can change the amount depending on the level of hotness desired)

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp vegetable oil/olive oil

1-2 tbsp fish sauce

Salt and fresh ground black pepper


350 Gms of rice noodle/ rice vermicelli

Quarter of small cabbage thinly sliced

Half a carrot finely julienned

1-2 Thai red chillies thinly sliced

2 large scallions thinly sliced

½ cup roasted peanuts coarsely chopped


200 Gms shrimps

Some Thai basil finely chopped

Some fresh mint leaves finely chopped

Fried onions (optional)


In a bowl combine the lime juice, rice vinegar and ginger, I usually like to mince the garlic and chillies together with a pestle and add. Add the balance ingredients listed under dressing and mix well. You can change up the quantities as per your taste, depending how spicy or sweet you would like.

Cook the noodle as per the directions in the package. Season the shrimps with salt and sauté them in a little oil till pink, which usually takes about a minute and a half each side, for medium sized shrimps. Place the noodles in a large salad mixing bowl and the veggies, and the herbs and the peanuts. Pour the dressing and toss to coat well. Season as per taste. Add the shrimp and garnish with scallions and peanuts and fried onions.*


*to make fried onions chop onions and fry them in oil till brown , soak excess oil and air dry.

Watermelon and Feta salad

Around the world, people are celebrating the arrival of cold weather and with it warm soups and rich food to warm the body and mind. Well we in Mumbai beg to differ from the world, so while everyone is preparing for fall, amchi Mumbai has been clocking 34 degrees every day, hardly fall you would agree!! Which is why I can still relish watermelon and feta salad; one of my favourites and probably the easiest things you will ever make. I’m not sure if it qualifies as cooking!!!

This salad is so refreshing, it’s better than ice cream in my book. It looks like a dream and tastes like heaven in your mouth. Perfect for those long hot summer months; when all you want to do is drink lots of water and avoid anything heavy. It’s healthy and delicious, perfect combination in my book.  And it works because of the contrast of the flavours, the sweet watermelon and the salty feta.

What do you need,  a watermelon, some feta cheese and some herbs. This salad needs to be eaten fresh, and by that I mean, make it and eat it. You cannot let it sit, as watermelon, releases a lot of water, the longer you wait, more watery it will become, and the flavours will be lost. So I would recommend that you assemble the ingredients but wait to make the salad; right before you eat it.

Let’s make it


1 small Watermelon cut into cubes (preferably deseeded)

1/3 cup olive oil

2-3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 cup chopped fresh mint

1 and ½ cup crumbled fresh feta cheese.

Salt and pepper to taste

Handful fresh parsley


In a small bowl, mix together the oil, vinegar and salt and pepper to make the dressing. Pour it over the cut watermelon along with the chopped mint, toss gently to coat.

Add the crumbled feta cheese and the parsley and blend in gently to integrate without losing the texture of the cheese. Serve.

Watermelon and Feta salad




Salad days-Crunchy green salad

You know what I really enjoy in my travels through Europe, the amazing variety of salads in the menu, using fresh local produce. Eating healthy and clean has never been easier. Unfortunately my salad making skills were limited to mixing cucumber, onion and tomatoes together in a lime dressing, what in India we call kuchumber; nice but everyone gets bored with the same old! So I have been consciously trying to make new and fresh salads everyday at home, so eating clean doesn’t have to mean travelling to Europe!! 🙂 So in the  next few blogs I will share with you all the new salads that I have been attempting to make. And today we will start with the most simplest of them all, I like to call the crunchy green salad.

This kind of salad can be a great accompaniment to any meal, as a side; or add a protein like chicken or smoked salmon and you can make it a main too. It totally depends on what you are in the mood for; I am just equipping you with the basics, like the building blocks of a great salad.

I have used a mix of greens, like arugula, different kinds of lettuce, rocket and some purple cabbage leaves, as the base, you can choose any you like. Do remember to wash them well, dry with a kitchen cloth and tear them to bite size.

The secret to a good salad, and especially my crunchy green salad is some nuts to add the crunch element, and I have used some candied walnuts; you can use  roasted walnuts or roasted pine nuts for that additional zing to a simple salad. However I would recommend trying the candied walnuts, it takes the salad to another level. For how to make candied walnuts click here.

Crunchy Green Salad


100 gms of mixed greens

Finely shredded carrots

Candied walnuts

Handful mint or basil

Salt and pepper for taste

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp cider vinegar

½ tsp honey

Grated parmesan shavings

Crunchy Green Salad


First  start by making the dressing, slowly pour the oil in the vinegar and blend in, add the honey. I usually add the salt and pepper after putting in the greens; you can add the salt to the dressing and taste it before proceeding.

Blend the vegetables with the dressing add the herbs, and finally the nuts and the cheese just before serving. Crunchy green salad is ready to be devoured.


Moist Banana Muffins-for Diwali

Diwali is almost here, literally knocking on the doors and I cannot contain my excitement. Since childhood this has been my favorite festival, and I look forward to it every year. The lights, sweets, everyone in their brightest attire, I love it all. So what am I serving my guests this Diwali, apart from the candied walnuts we made last time? Some warm muffins, yes moist banana muffins. Time for some new ideas, and muffins it is.

The good part, they have fruit in it, I make it with brown rice flour, (you can use whole wheat or all purpose too) and raw sugar, so it’s definitely healthier than the store bought options, and the kids just love it. It’s a great breakfast and snacking option. And believe me your guests will bless you for serving something different this festive season.

Let’s dive into the recipe.

 Moist Banana Muffins


1-1/2 cups brown rice flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

4 ripe bananas, mashed

¾ cup raw sugar

⅓ Cup olive oil

1 egg

½ cup chocolate chips (optional)


Preheat the oven at 170 degrees C, and line your muffin tray with muffin cups or grease with butter.

Mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Then mix together the wet ingredients, banana, oil, egg and the sugar. Fold the banana mixture with the dry flour mixture gently, till all is incorporated well. Add the chocolate chips.  Put the mixture in the muffin tray and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. You can check by inserting a toothpick in the middle, it should come clean, that means your muffins are done.

Moist Banana Muffins

Moist Banana Muffins

Candied Walnuts-Diwali beckons

You know it’s Diwali around the corner when you suddenly notice twinkling lights everywhere around. Shops start screaming discounts, and all around there is lots, I mean lots and lots of sweets. But when it comes to food the traditional is becoming passé and more and more we are moving towards purchasing Diwali sweets. Traditionally our moms used to make mithai at home, and I know that with our busy lives its not always possible to do that all the time. But what if I told you could make something sweet at home literally in 5 minutes, sweet and unique! Candied walnuts; dry fruits anyways have become a part of gifting in Diwali. Yours would be different and way better.



The great part about this recipe apart from the fact that how quickly you can make it, is that it’s a great snack, is awesome with salads, can be put in small glass jars and can be a very thoughtful diwali gift too! And I like it better than caramel popcorn. You just cannot stop at one, I challenge you.

Recipe-Candied Walnuts


1 cup walnut
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp butter


Put a non stick pan on the gas; add the butter, followed by the sugar and walnuts. Keep on stirring everything over medium heat for 5 minutes. When the sugar starts melting, stir well so that all the nuts are coated properly.

Once done, transfer immediately to a parchment paper, and start separating the nuts so that they do not stick together. You will have to move quickly otherwise you will end up with a big blob of nuts. And yes the parchment paper is a must, if you want to avoid a sticky mess.

Once it cools, you can store in an airtight container.

Candied Walnuts

Candied Walnuts




Bulgur wheat pilaf with chickpeas and tomatoes

We all would like to eat healthy but delicious food, I know for a fact that people are scared of healthy eating thinking it will be just be plain salads and soups. But we can eat healthy by incorporating more whole wheat grains in our diet. Epidemiological studies find that whole-grain intake can be protective against health conditions like cancer, heart disease, digestive disorders, diabetes and obesity. Bulgur wheat, sometimes also called cracked wheat, is a lesser-known type of whole wheat durum grain. Compared to refined carbohydrate foods made with enriched or refined wheat, bulgur wheat is a much better source of vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants and phytonutrients.

The difference between bulgur and most types of wheat flours used in many packaged products is that bulgur hasn’t been stripped (or “refined) of its bran and germ, which are where many of the nutrients are actually stored within a whole grain. Also it’s naturally cholesterol free.

Now that we know it’s good for us, how do we eat it? Bulgur is a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine and used in salads, kebabs and pilaf. Readers of this blog will know that I have earlier shared the recipe of Turkish kebab using bulgur. Today I will show you how to make a pilaf. It’s a simple hearty recipe that can be eaten just like that or goes well with yoghurt or as an accompaniment to any meat dish as served in Turkey.

Recipe:Bulgur wheat pilaf with chickpeas and tomatoes


2 tbsp oil for cooking

1 red onion finely chopped

1 red pepper finely chopped( I used a green one as didn’t have a red one at home, red pepper just adds to the color of the final recipe)

2 cloves garlic minced

1 tsp cumin powder

¼ tsp cinnamon powder

Chilli flakes as per taste

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 cup bulgur

1 can chopped tomatoes (I have used canned for convenience, you can use fresh tomatoes)

¾ cup vegetable stock or chicken stock

1 cup chickpeas soaked overnight and boiled

Salt and pepper as per taste

1 tablespoon finely chopped mint

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley


Heat oil in a pan and add the onion and pepper cook for 6-8 minutes till you can see the onion turning translucent. Add the garlic, cumin, cinnamon, chilli flakes and the tomato paste, cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add the bulgur and stir well so that it well coated in the mixture. Add the chickpeas, tomato, stock , and salt and pepper; let it come to a boil on high. Reduce the heat and cover it for ten to fifteen minutes. Before serving garnish with the mint and parsley. Tastes awesome hot, but goes well as a salad, cold too.

Bulgur wheat pilaf

Bulgur wheat pilaf



Fresh Basil Pesto

You all will remember from my earlier posts my fledgling attempts at organic kitchen gardening, and finally I have something ready that I can use for all my cooking experiments and I am over the moon. I always dreamt of having garden fresh herbs at my disposable, and I am proud to say that I now can use fresh basil and parsley from my garden. And fresh basil calls for home made basil pesto, better than any store bought jar of pesto. And once you have made it fresh, believe me; you will never buy a bottle of pesto from the supermarket.

Fresh Basil from the garden

Fresh Basil from the garden

For the past few weeks, I have also been kind of obsessed with my garden, if you can call all the balcony and window sill planters that ; well for future reference that’s what I would like to call them. And I am sure all my plants would be gravely insulted on hearing anything otherwise. Well on last count apart from the herbs, I am trying to grow, spinach, lettuce, tomato, eggplant, radish and carrots. I love to see the green shoots coming out when I wake up in the morning, and see them growing taller day by day.

Now over to the pesto, as basil is a very strong aromatic herb, what I have done is substituted half with baby spinach leaves, it will make the flavour less strong and also helps you retain the vibrant green colour, which is lost after a day when stored in the fridge if using only basil.

Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe


2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed (can substitute half the basil leaves with baby spinach)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup pine nuts (can substitute chopped walnuts)

3 garlic cloves, minced (about 3 teaspoons)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Pulse the basil leaves and pine nuts in a food processor several times, add the garlic and the cheese and pulse several times.

Fresh Basil Pesto

Add the olive oil slowly and not all in one go, so that it emulsifies properly; season with salt and pepper. Thats it, fresh pesto is ready. Time for some pasta dinner maybe, also goes well with potatoes, or just like that with some crackers.



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